Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘tree

Ice on lichens on cedar elm

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The branches of cedar elm trees (Ulmus crassifolia) often have flanges and sometimes also lichens on them.
They rarely add ice, but they did on January 10th as snow and sleet came down.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “You will say that I am old and mad, but I answer that there is no better way of keeping sane and free from anxiety than being mad.” — Michelangelo at age 74.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2021 at 4:24 AM

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Fiat lux, fiat nix

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The Latin words “Fiat lux” mean “Let there be light.” Yesterday morning in Austin anyone who’d said instead “Fiat nix,” “Let there be snow,” would have seen that come to pass. I took the photograph above looking out our front window at a yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) that the cedar waxwings had left alone.

I ended up spending two hours and then another three hours yesterday documenting our rare snowfall. More pictures will appear in the days ahead.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 11, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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The temperature dropped 15° in as many minutes

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There I was lying on the ground at the edge of Lake Pflugerville on December 30th last year to photograph this bare bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) against menacing clouds when suddenly the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, both noticeably, as the predicted cold front came through. Adding some brightness to the bleak sky and dark branches were the colorful lichens on the tree’s trunk:

Unrelated thought for today:  “Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity.” — Charles MacKay,
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first published in 1841.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Yummy yaupon

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You may remember the gorgeously fruitful possumhaws (Ilex decidua) that appeared in these pages three weeks ago. After I posted the second of those pictures to Facebook’s Texas Flora group on January 1st, a member commented that cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) had already stripped her possumhaws and yaupons (Ilex vomitoria) of all their little red fruits (berries in common parlance, drupes scientifically). That Texas Flora comment must have gotten picked up and broadcast on radio station KACW* (Kalling All Cedar Waxwings), because within a couple of hours a gang of those birds showed up at our house and gobbled down more than half the fruit on the yaupon tree outside my window. In today’s picture, which was a good photographic way to inaugurate the new year, you’re looking at one of the avian thieves caught in flagrante delicto. The waxwings came back on January 6th and mostly finished the job, so that now I see only a dozen or so spots of red outside my window, where in December hundreds had been.

* After I made up radio station KACW, I discovered that a real one with those call letters exists in South Bend, Washington. It has a greater range than its operators realize.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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Paloverde tree with great wispy clouds

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Parkinsonia aculeata; Roy G. Guerrero Park; December 21, 2020.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 7, 2021 at 4:36 AM

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More Texas red oak

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Among the last displays of colorful fall foliage in Austin each year is that of the Texas red oak, Quercus buckleyi, as seen here from Great Hills Park on December 15th. (The oaks are young and slender; the large trunks are from other kinds of trees.) Now it’s two weeks later and I’m still finding some red Texas red oak leaves, including a few in our back yard.

Sensorily and psychologically it seems that red is the most fundamental color, and it’s a truism of linguistics that the first color word a language creates is the one for red. The Indo-European language root representing the color red has been reconstructed as *reudh-, which is still recognizable thousands of years later in native English red and ruddy. Red-related words English has acquired directly or indirectly from Latin, which is a cousin of English, include rufous, rubeola, ruby, rubidium, rubicund, rubefacient, rubella, robust, rouge, roux, and russet. (If you’re puzzled about robust, it’s based on Latin rōbur, which designated a type of red oak tree; robust conveys the strength of that tree rather than its color.) From Greek, also a relative of English, comes the erythro– in technical terms like erythrocyte and erythromycin.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2020 at 4:39 AM

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Zipper

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Had I ever seen flanges on the young limbs of cedar elm trees (Ulmus crassifolia)? Sure, it’s a common feature. Had I ever seen a flanged cedar elm limb looking as much like a zipper as the one I encountered in Cedar Breaks Park on Lake Georgetown on December 8th? No, and that’s why I’m featuring it here. The red in the background came from the many little fruits of a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua).

Did you know that zipper was originally a trade name? You may want to zip over and read about the history of the word and the device itself.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Strangely somnolent squirrel

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During a walk in the already large and still expanding Sunfield subdivision in Buda on December 12th, the Lady Eve caught sight of a squirrel on a tree branch just a few feet above us and called my attention to it. Despite the barking of a nearby dog and my taking a bunch of pictures over a span of 11 minutes, said squirrel never budged from its perch. In fact its eyes closed for a few seconds at a time before reopening, as if sleep were calling in the middle of the day. If only all my live subjects were so docile or so in need of a nap.

I take this to have been a fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, which is common in central Texas (including right outside my window at home). The tree seems to have been a sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, which grows abundantly in east Texas and can occasionally be found in the wild as close as one county to the east of mine, but which some people plant in the Austin area.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2020 at 4:36 AM

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Texas has many things inimical to human skin

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On November 20th I worked my way into the median on E. Howard Lane to photograph some fruit-bearing possumhaws and yaupons (Ilex decidua and vomitoria, respectively). On a couple of the trees I noticed several furry little tan or grey bundles that I later learned aren’t bundles of joy, at least not where human skin is concerned. Fortunately I didn’t touch any of the critters, which bugguide.net has identified as Megalopyge opercularis, known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, puss caterpillar, asp, and perrito (Spanish for ‘puppy’). The Bugguide entry for this species includes a cautionary note: “Occasionally, in outbreak years, puss caterpillars are sufficiently numerous to defoliate some trees…. However, their main importance is medical. In Texas, they have been so numerous in some years that schools in San Antonio in 1923 and Galveston in 1951 were closed temporarily because of stings to children….” You’re welcome to read a more recent account of envenomations.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2020 at 4:18 AM

Monochrome Monday and more

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For decades I took pictures using black and white film. Now I’m enamored of color and rarely convert any digital files to black and white. Something about this picture enticed me to try that, though, and above is the result. Coincidentally, it’s similar to the effects of the black and white infrared film I was fond of in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What you see below is another possibility when converting a digital file: reducing the color partially rather than entirely.

You may want to compare these to the original color photograph that debuted here last month.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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